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WWE Smackdown LIVE!- December 20, 2016

by Scrooge McSuck

Apollo Crews

- Last week on Smackdown Live... A.J. Styles vs. James Ellsworth did not take place as advertised... Dolph Ziggler defeated Dean Ambrose, Luke Harper, and The Miz in a Four-Corner Elimination Match to become the #1 Contender to A.J. Styles... Alexa Bliss walked out on a match with Becky Lynch after refusing a match with enhancement girl Deonna Purrazzo... Zack Ryder survived a Tag Team Battle Royal to earn a Championship Match against The Wyatt Family... Apollo Crews hung out with Gabriel Iglesias and annoyed The Miz... Natalya continues to insist she didn't attack Nikki Bella, and ended up losing a match to Carmella due to a miscommunication... and that's it, I guess. They taped Tribute to the Troops the same night, so they stretched things out a bit.

- Smackdown Episode #904 is LIVE from the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, MI, with Mauro Ranallo, John "Bradshaw" Layfield, and David Otunga calling the action, and Tom Phillips sitting at ringside to keep the gun to Mauro's head and make sure he follows Vince's instructions. Advertised for tonight... not much. I guess they are promoting Styles vs. Ellsworth, but they backed out on it two weeks in a row already.

WWE World Championship Match:
A.J. Styles © vs. James Ellsworth:

Oh wow, this match is actually going to happen tonight? If you'll recall, two weeks ago, the match didn't take place due to Styles having a mild ankle injury, and to explain it being canceled last week, they did a ridiculous segment with Ellsworth coming down with "chinfluenza." Ellsworth has won three matches against Styles, all with direct interference and distractions from Dean Ambrose. How will he do on his own? Ellsworth dances around and goes for a lockup, but Styles casually dumps him into the corner and complains. Ellsworth teases No Chin Music, but Styles catches it, lands a flurry of strikes, and casually covers for the three count at 0:45. That was decisive and rightfully so.

- Post-match, Styles decides to add injury to defeat, tossing Ellsworth to the floor and slamming him into the announcer's table. He peaks under the ring, finding nothing, and chooses to slingshot Ellsworth underneath the ring, catching his non-chin under the support structure. Styles leaves, but quickly returns and throws Ellsworth into the security wall with a snap suplex. He gloats about his accomplishment while Ellsworth is carted off. "He can go back to the Island of Misfit Toys where he belongs." Dolph Ziggler interrupts, and reminds Styles that he has a Championship opportunity next week. Styles reminds him the best thing he's at is losing. Baron Corbin interrupts for whatever reason (remember that epic feud between Corbin and Ziggler that lasted 3-4 months immediately following WrestleMania?). Corbin complains about Ziggler always getting the title shots, and a quick End of Days follows.

- Daniel Bryan is with Dolph Ziggler backstage. Ziggler wants a match with Corbin tonight, but Bryan stipulates that if Ziggler loses, then Baron Corbin gets the Championship Match next week on the Very Special Edition of Smackdown Live.

WWE Intercontinental Championship Match:
The Miz © (w/ Maryse) vs. Apollo Crews:

ReMatch from the Tribute to the Troops Special, where Gabriel Iglesias distracted the Miz, allowing Apollo Crews to pick up the Non-Title Victory. Crews doesn't get an entrance, so I don't like the odds of a possible title switch. Crews ducks under a clothesline and cradles Miz for two. La Magistral cradle for another two count. Crisscross and Crews with a dropkick for two. Miz tries it himself, but Crews hangs back to avoid the dropkick and bridges Miz for two. Miz to the floor, but Crews follows with a baseball slide and a standing moonsault from the apron. At least Miz has gotten better at almost catching people. Back inside, a diving body press gets two. We return from break with Crews hitting a midsection super-kick. Whip to the ropes and jumping clothesline, followed by a jumping enzuigiri for two. Miz fights out of a back suplex, but the Skull Crushing Finale is countered with a roll up for two. Angle Slam by Crews for two. Crews misses a dive to the corner, but gets an elbow up on the charge. Maryse teases interference, but the referee catches and ejects her from ringside. That's a quick trigger. Must be a reference to the NFL or NBA. Crews with a high angle German Suplex for two. Miz thumbs the eye behind the referee's back, and the Skull Crushing Finale finishes at 4:50 (shown). **1/2 Good match for such a one-sided match until the finish. Didn't hurt that the crowd was into the near falls.

- Renee Young tries to interview the Miz about his victory, but instead he turns it around and asks her about her obsession with Dean Ambrose. After all, she's the one sleeping with him. SAVAGE! Young responds with a slap across the face and storms off, refusing to continue with the interview. Damn, who would've thought at the start of 2016, that THE MIZ might be the MVP of 2016?

- Zack Ryder suffered a knee injury last week, and will be out of action for an indeterminate amount of time, so the Hype Bros unfortunately lose their opportunity to challenge for the Tag Team Titles. At Smackdown Live: Wild Card Finals, it'll be a Four Corners Match with American Alpha, Slater and Rhyno, and the Usos challenging two members of The Wyatt Family. Seriously, what have the Usos done to earn this opportunity?

- John Cena returns to Smackdown Live... NEXT WEEK.

- Natalya comes out to further her little storyline with Nikki Bella and Carmella. She just wants to talk. Maybe Nikki is done being a snob and actually responded to her phone calls and text messages. Carmella quickly interrupts their non-conversation and continue to play them against each other. Natalya keeps denying everything until finally breaking and telling Carmella she's a snitch because she told her these things in private. The line that pushed her over the line? That Nikki and Brie couldn't make it on their own and wouldn't be anything without WWE. Natalya gives chase to Carmella, then decides to go full blown heel, whining about how she's Natalya Neidhart, and she's from wrestling royalty, and Nikki is nothing... and a B-word that rhymes with "witch." Then they make it into a Total Divas angle about John Cena not wanting to marry her. Hey, keep the Total Divas shit off my show, Smackdown Live doesn't need that trash.

- Daniel Bryan meets with Alexa Bliss, who's still pretending to be injured. The trainers say otherwise. She'll have to compete tonight, or else she can forfeit the Women's Championship. Next week on the Wild Card Finals (what an odd name for a special episode), she defends against the former Champion, Becky Lynch.

Dean Ambrose vs. Luke Harper (w/ Randy Orton & Bray Wyatt):

Ambrose doesn't appear to be too upset about the outing of his relationship with Renee Young. Good to see them giving Harper another high profile match, but he needs to get some wins and it wouldn't hurt to elevate him as a possible future challenger for the World Title. The more options, the better. Harper with a quick knockdown. Ambrose slips out of a slam and tricks Harper out of the ring. Harper sweeps the locks to avoid Dirty Deeds and slingshots Ambrose beneath the ropes. We return from commercial with them fighting for position on the second turnbuckle. Ambrose hops off and runs into a spinning sidewalk slam for two. Harper with a modified cross-face. Ambrose fights to his feet and gets nailed across the back of the head. Harper with a back breaker and a Torture Rack. Ambrose escapes and comes off the ropes with a clothesline. Harper blocks a bulldog attempt, launches Ambrose into the turnbuckle, and knocks him to the floor with a Super-Kick. Ambrose recovers and comes off the top with the big elbow onto Orton and Wyatt. Harper avoided the contact, rolling into the ring. Back inside, Harper with a sit-out Powerbomb for two. Harper calls for the finish, but Ambrose ducks the Discus Clothesline, and a cradle puts Harper's shoulders down for three at 4:41 (shown). Post-match, Orton and Wyatt put a beating on Ambrose and he's left laying with the RKO. *1/2 Decent action, but too short, and not a huge fan of the quick roll-up finishes.

- The Miz shows up, with Dean Ambrose still recovering from the post-match antics of the Wyatt Family, and lays him out with the Skull Crushing Finale. Well, that's definitely a heel move and a good way to get retribution for Renee's slap earlier in the night. Go Miz!

Alexa Bliss vs. La Luchadora:

Oh man, as if you couldn't guess who the mysterious opponent of Alexa Bliss is. The reveal is such a juicy one, I accidentally typed his or her name by accident in the last sentence, and had to proof-read everything to correct my mistake. JBL says it's Mil Mascaras' Great-Granddaughter. La Luchadora avoids a lock-up and dances. Bliss goes for the arm by La-Lu easily counters and rolls Bliss up for a one count. OLE! She turns Bliss inside out into another pinning combination. La-Lu with a snap mare and body scissors, taking Bliss around the ring for a full lap. She grabs a guillotine choke, but Bliss makes it to the ropes. Bliss finally gets a bit of offense, a flurry of strikes and choking across the middle rope. Bliss meets an elbow on the charge. La-Lu grabs the arm and takes her over with a cross arm-breaker, then transitions into the Disarm-Her for the tap out at 3:02. To the surprise of no one, the masked luchador is Becky Lynch. Cute, old school formula to let the babyface steal a victory over the unsuspecting heel.

- Ryan Phillippe, star of Shooter, is walking around looking for Randy Orton. He comes across Mojo Rawley, but is quickly interrupted by Curt Hawkins. They exchange words and a match is set. Mojo accuses Hawkins of being unlucky with the ladies, too.

Mojo Rawley vs. Curt Hawkins:

Curious to see if they use Mojo Rawley every week while Zack Ryder is sidelined. Ryan Phillippe has joined the commentary team to push "Shooter." Hawkins with a knee to the midsection and some strikes. Whip to the ropes and Hawkins bails to avoid any punishment. Rawley gives chase and catches a knee across the back. Hawkins yells at Mojo to Face The Facts™ and runs into a shoulder tackle. Hawkins fights Mojo off from the apron and connects with a running clothesline for two. Rawley with a towering back body drop, followed by a series of shoulder tackles and a big clothesline. Rawley with the Stinger Splash Combo, whip to the ropes, and Pounce. Mojo with a charging forearm into the corner, and Hawkins is out at 2:30. Basic undercard action to fill a few minutes.

- Dasha Fuentes attempts to interview James Ellsworth, who is covered in bandages and wrapped in ice. He doesn't respond with more than painful grunts. Carmella shows up to tell Dasha off and show sympathy for Ellsworth. Oh God, that one is going to blow up in his face sooner than later.

Dolph Ziggler vs. Baron Corbin:

While not an official #1 Contenders Match, this basically comes down to whoever wins is getting the title match next week. A.J. Styles joins the commentary team, probably to interfere a bit more easily. Ziggler attacks with rights and knocks Corbin to the floor with a dropkick. Ziggler picks the leg, but Corbin fights free and lands a knee to the midsection. Corbin walks Ziggler around ringside and does it again in front of Styles. Ziggler fires back with more rights. Whip to the corner is reversed and Ziggler takes the bump chest first. Corbin stretches Ziggler out, using the ropes to his advantage, and shoots him across the ring for another hard stop in the corner. Ziggler slips out of a slam and lands a dropkick. Ziggler with a diving clothesline, but a dive into the corner nets him nothing but a drop across the top rope. Ziggler gets an elbow up on the charge, but is nailed from behind on the in-and-out rush. Corbin sends him shoulder first into the ring post and charges from the floor with a forearm.

We return from commercial, with Ziggler fighting out of a chin-lock. Corbin charges into the corner and meets the post. Ziggler with a sloppy Famouser for a near fall. Corbin goes for a Powerbomb, but Ziggler counters with a roll up for two. Corbin with an STO for two. Corbin yells at Styles to pay attention and comes off the ropes with a right. Ziggler catches him with a roll up for two. Corbin is up first and lays him out with a clothesline for a near fall. Ziggler hits a neck breaker across the middle rope, followed by the Zig-Zag for two. They exchange blows in the corner, with Corbin getting the better of it and connects with Deep Six for another near fall. They take it to the floor, with Corbin throwing Ziggler into the barricade. Yay, the crowd is chanting "ten" for every count from the referee. Corbin tosses Ziggler into Styles because he's a jerk. They keep fighting, and the bell rings at 12:06 (shown). It's a Double Count-Out. Styles whacks both with chairs and celebrates, so here's Daniel Bryan to make next week's title match a Triple Threat. **1/2 Decent "Main Event" formula match, but you're never getting much more from Corbin.

Final Thoughts: Hit-and-miss show this week, but that's more than we've traditionally seen from shows that come this time of year. They did a fine job promoting next week's special episode of Smackdown Live, with three Championship matches, as well as the return of John Cena. With a bit of effort, they could do some good to push guys like Apollo Crews, Luke Harper, and Baron Corbin, but to do that, you have to give them wins over credible opponents and not burry them (cough: Crews: cough) on the warm-up matches for weeks at a time.

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